What is gout?
Gout, contrary to popular belief, does not just affect old men who drink too much port. The actual condition is caused by crystals of uric acid depositing themselves into the tissues of the body.
When the condition is chronic, hard lumps of uric acid are deposited in and around the joints – these lumps can also lodge in the kidneys leading to decreased kidney function and kidney stones.
It can be hereditary – an inherited abnormality in the body’s ability to process uric acid. We all produce Uric acid, which is a by-product of purines, which are present in most of the foods that we eat.
Which part of the body does gout normally affect?
The inability to process uric acid becomes gout when one of the joints is affected. It is usually in the foot and particularly the big toe. But other joints can be affected too.
Unlike the other forms of arthritis – this is a an acute rather than chronic variation and is usually linked to immediate causes rather than a systemic problem. The reason the joint at the base of the big toe is most affected is that as the uric acid crystals are carried through the system they collect at the lowest point of the body – i.e. the big toe. Some people will also suffer a fever with the outbreak and the attack can last anything from a few hours to weeks or months. It is recurring depending on how acute the condition and largely down to your lifestyle.
It really is prevention rather than cure with this one. And particularly keeping the correct fluid balance. This is essential for your kidneys anyway to ensure that all the toxins that you are taking in are flushed out. If you are dehydrated, uric acid will build up and crystallise; that is why taking in sufficient fluid rich foods and liquids each day is important.
It is also important to maintain a healthy weight with less sugar in your diet. Sugar is acidic and disrupts our natural alkaline/acid balance in the blood which is of course flowing around the body including the joint areas.
For this type of arthritis, Purine rich foods can increase the production of uric acid so some of the foods to avoid are shellfish, liver and kidneys.
Funnily enough, dairy intake has been shown to be beneficial in some research. Protein from vegetable sources such as broccoli does not seem to have the same effect as Purine from animal protein so lots of fresh fruit and vegetables are essential.
Alcohol however does cause increased risk of uric acid output particularly beer and spirits. Wine does not seem to be as much of a problem. Again I think that gout attacks in the past have been more associated with the dehydrating effects of alcohol rather than drinking too much Port.
Plus the fact that the usual sufferers tended to be wealthy males who consumed large amounts of red meats at every meal.
Gout and triggers in our diet.
The other issue with our modern lifestyle is eating too much industrially produced foods with chemicals and additives which add further stress onto our kidneys. This circles back to my recommendation that you eat 80% of your food from fresh sources and only 20% from packets.
If you are following that recommendation, drinking plenty of good fluids such as water, teas, particularly green tea, herbal teas, coffees and avoiding all commercially produced fizzy drinks.
As with any disease you need to have a diet rich in anti-oxidants from a wide variety of vegetables and fruit as well as wholegrains, nuts and seeds.
If you have a risk of gout either because it is in the family or you have suffered an attack before I would suggest that you follow a mainly plant and whole grain based diet with white fish.An occasional meal of poultry, lean pork and oily fish may not cause you a problem but eating red meat every day will.
If you suffer an attack of gout then go to a completely plant and wholegrain based diet for a few days until the attack is passed. Porridge for breakfast, brown rice pilaf with vegetables for lunch and a wholegrain sandwich with salad in the evening. Drink green tea and water throughout the day and avoid all alcohol.
What else can we do to ease the symptoms of arthritis?
All three of the arthritis strains will benefit from some physical support such as Acupuncture – I had that for a time and it certainly was beneficial in the healing process. Yoga, which involves gentle stretching, is excellent provided you have a good teacher and also the same with Tai Chi. Exercise is essential both for weight management and to build a strong muscle structure to compensate for the joint weakness. Also endorphins are released during exercise which acts as a natural painkiller.
Acupuncture is Chinese in origin and at over 2,000 years old is one of the oldest and most respected medical procedures in use in the world. Not only humans but our household pets, farm animals, race horses and exotic animals in zoos are being treated with acupuncture for many different ailments.
As far as the west is concerned, acupuncture really only came to prominence in the last half of the 20th century. Acupuncture means literally the stimulation of certain points on the body by a variety of techniques including massage, but this month we are taking a look at the needle.
Thin, solid metallic needles are used to penetrate the skin and are then manipulated by hand or by electrical stimulation to achieve energy flow through specific points in the body.
QUESTION – HOW DOES ACUPUNCTURE WORK?
The most held theory about the effectiveness of acupuncture comes from Traditional Chinese Medicine, which is a highly respected and effective form of treatment.
The body needs to be in balance to work efficiently. Despite our apparent robustness the balance within our bodies is remarkably delicate and it only takes minute shifts in this balance to result in degenerative diseases and illness. In Chinese medicine this balance is between two opposing and inseparable forces called Yin and Yang.
Yin represents cold, slow and passive forces whilst Yang represents hot, passionate forces. To be in a perfect state of health, both these forces must be in balance, however, when one force takes dominance an illness might occur.
When there is an imbalance the natural flow (Qi) through pathways (meridians) in the body are interrupted or blocked at various points in the body. It is believed that there are 12 main meridians and 8 secondary meridians and there are over 2000 acupuncture points on the human body that connect them.
Western science has tried to determine how manipulating these points on the body might help treat certain conditions and there are a number of theories. One is that the manipulation encourages the release of endorphins and also stimulates the release of additional immune system defences at those points. Some studies indicate that there might be a change to our brain chemistry stimulating the release of neurotransmitters (chemical messengers between cells) and neurohormones (hormones that are released into the bloodstream but also act as neurotransmitters) that might affect parts of the central nervous system. These may relate to sensations such as pain or functions such as immune system defensive reactions, blood pressure regulation, blood flow and temperature.
There are certain points on the body that have a specific effect. For example there are points on the ear that alleviate tension, increase will power, return the body into a balanced state, relieve withdrawal symptoms and can reduce your appetite. A qualified acupuncturist will have a detailed knowledge of the affects resulting from all 2000 points being manipulated.
I have undergone acupuncture treatment a couple of times. One was to help me lose weight, which involved having a stud inserted into the upper part of my ear that I could manipulate myself when I became hungry. It certainly worked although I unfortunately never let something as basic as a lack of appetite come between me and a tub of ice cream. If my initial commitment at that time had been to really losing the weight it would have been more effective. Either that or locking me away in a junk food free zone for three months!
The second time was definitely a rewarding experience. I have a damaged knee due to the wear and tear of hauling 25 stone out of a car several times a day in my previous life. Despite losing weight, a number of years later the knee gave way and it looked as though I might have to undergo surgery. I visited a physiotherapist who also was an acupuncturist and for the next three months I went to see her twice a week.
It was not entirely painless but within a fairly short space of time the inflammation was much improved, as was the pain. Today I still have the some problems with the knee but I have found that if I manipulate certain points that my therapist showed me, I can make my own improvements.
What gives me great confidence is the work done with animals. Animals do not have a hidden agenda in trying to prove that any particular therapy works or not. Either it does or it doesn’t. More and more vets and animal therapists are using acupuncture in their practices with great results. For me that is evidence enough that this form of medical therapy is an option when looking at therapeutic care.
If you are trying to lose weight or give up smoking you must first start with the firm decision that you are going to do so. Then contemplate acupuncture to support that decision. What I have found is that if you do not want to give up cigarettes or the ice cream, you will override any supportive therapy you choose.
Do research therapists and a personal recommendation from someone that has been treated by them is often the best way to find one that will suit you. Be prepared to give a detailed and honest medical history before undergoing treatment.
©sallycronin Just Food For Health 2009